by Justine Glenton
An Ashtanga & Zen Yoga Teacher
Just as each yoga pose has certain benefits on the body and can be applied for particular prerequisites, a good 'diet' should work well for you too; supporting your system, encouraging your body to feel healthy, sleep well, have strong digestion, healthy assimilation and elimination. A balanced approach towards eating needs us to be mindful, honest and kind with ourselves.
Traditionally, yogis were lacto - vegetarians, avoiding eggs and animal flesh including fish. Yogis encourage foods to be eaten as much in their natural form as possible, synthetic and processed foods disrupt the balance. Yogis encourage wholefoods that are free from additives or subtraction, in season and not pre-packaged.
Yoga has long since been tied with Ayurveda - the classic system of Indian medicine. Central to Ayurveda is the concept of varying body types, each of which thrives on different foods, 'vata' types for example need grounding foods like oils and grains, 'pitta' types need cooling foods like salad and sweet fruits, 'kapha' need invigorating foods such as cayenne and other hot peppers. A classic premise of Ayurveda is that few people are strictly one type and most are a blend of two; each individual must therefore find a personal balance of foods to fit his or her unique constitution. It has been noted that the Indian civilisation suffer least from bowel problems, constipation, indigestion and other food related symptoms including obesity.
In recent years it has been discovered that even right foods taken in wrong combinations can cause problems this is known as: 'food combining'. Some types of food combine well while others, because of the difference in the digestive process they require, should not be mixed, for example: strong proteins should not be mixed with carbohydrates. This is one that I personally find works really well for me and my practise, my system feels vitalised rather than heavy and tired when I mix the foods.
There are many approaches to diet and lots to explore. If you find an eating system appealing either Western or Eastern try it out and see if it is a good fit, listen to your body. As you practise yoga an intuitive sense of what is right for your own body will emerge and therefore you can adapt a system that supports you, your practice and your health and well-being. There is a branch of yoga which is called Anna yoga - that is totally devoted to food for health and happiness! Namaste.